Baked pasta with pockets of melted cheese inside with an easy-to-make tomato sauce with sausage (no chopping!). This hearty sausage pasta recipe is easy to prep, can be made ahead, and makes for a cozy and comforting fall dinner.
If this baked pasta looks familiar it’s because it is. It’s what I like to call a “variation on a theme”. The theme, in this case, is pasta baked in a dish with sauce and pockets of cheese baked inside. I might be guilty of recycling ideas, but I only do it when something is really good and what’s better than pockets of melty cheese in a hearty sauce with pasta?
It’s a twist on my most favorite meatless baked ziti recipe, but with an easy homemade tomato sauce with sausage that requires – are you ready? – no chopping. No dicing onions and no mincing garlic for the sauce. So, let’s take a prep break and lean on our pantry inventory for this baked pasta.
For the Sauce:
- Olive oil
- Italian sausage
- Balsamic vinegar
- Italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder
- Salt and pepper
- Fire-roasted tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
You only need to boil the pasta for about 3/4 of the time listed on the box. It will finish cooking in the oven with the sauce.
While the pasta cooks, brown the sausage and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer it while you make the cheese filling.
For the Cheese Filling:
- Ricotta cheese
- Provolone cheese
- Asiago cheese
- Salt and pepper
For the provolone, I use slices because it’s easier than shredding a block of cheese. For the cheese filling, cut half of the cheese into small strips. The rest of the slices are used for the top of the pasta. You can, of course, use the same amount of shredded provolone.
Combine the ricotta, sliced provolone, half of the Asiago cheese, and the seasonings in a bowl. That’s it, the cheese filling is ready to go.
How to Assemble
- Spoon some sauce in the bottom of the dish. Add about half of the pasta and spread it into an even layer. Top with generous spoonfuls of the cheese.
- Top with half of the remaining sauce.
- Add the rest of the pasta, drop the rest of the cheese on the top.
- Pour the rest of the sauce over the pasta and cheese. Top with provolone cheese and Asiago cheese.
Bake the Pasta
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake the pasta for 15 minutes at 375°F. Uncover and bake it for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
This baked pasta makes four very generous servings. Add a salad or vegetable on the side and you can easily stretch it to serve six. Leftover baked pasta keeps well for two to three days in the refrigerator.
Can I make baked pasta ahead?
Yes, you can make this baked pasta ahead! Boil the pasta and make the sauce, but instead of popping it in the oven after you assemble it cover it tightly and pop it in the fridge. It will keep well up to a day in advance.
If you bake it straight from the fridge you will need to add about 10 minutes to the bake time.
Can I freeze baked pasta?
You can make this baked pasta and freeze it. Make the pasta, sauce, and cheese filling as instructed. Assemble the dish and cool it completely.
Wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer. It will keep well for two to three months.
When you’re ready to bake it, you can thaw it either in the fridge or at room temperature and then bake it. I’ve haven’t baked this pasta straight from the freezer, so check out these handy tips from Martha Stewart if you want to try it.
Looking for more variations on this baked pasta theme? Be sure to check out more of my favorite recipes ❤
More Baked Pasta Recipes
- Baked Chicken Parmesan Casserole
- One-Pan Baked Tortellini
- Stuffed Shells with Tomato Sauce
- Four Cheese Manicotti with Meat Sauce
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This hearty baked pasta takes advantage of pantry ingredients for easy prep. There’s no chopping required for the tomato sauce with sausage and the pasta and sauce bake up together with melted pockets of cheese inside.
Pasta and Sauce
- 8 ounces rigatoni
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon onion powder,
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- Chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
- 2 ounces sliced provolone cheese, divided (see note)
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 pinches of black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Boil the pasta for about 3/4 of the time listed on the package. For rigatoni, this should take approximately 8 to 9 minutes. Drain the pasta.
- While the pasta boils, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Brown the sausage in the oil and use your spatula to break it up as it cooks. Add the balsamic vinegar and, as it simmers, scrape up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and bring the sauce to a simmer.
- While the sauce simmers, make the cheese filling. Take half of the sliced provolone and cut it into small strips. Save the other half for the top of the pasta. Place the provolone in a bowl with the ricotta, half of the Asiago cheese, and all of the salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Cover the bottom of a 9×9″ baking dish with a thin layer of sauce. Top with half of the pasta. Top the pasta with dollops of the cheese filling (about half of the mixture). Top with half of the sauce. Repeat with the rest of the pasta and cheese finishing with the rest of the sauce on top.
- Place the rest of the sliced provolone on the sauce and sprinkle the rest of the Asiago over the top. Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake it uncovered for 15 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley, if using.
- You can use the same amount of shredded provolone cheese. I like to use sliced cheese because I don’t have to deal with shredding it.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
- Calories: 885
- Fat: 51.3g
- Carbohydrates: 66.8g
- Fiber: 7g
- Protein: 35.8g
Keywords: baked rigatoni, baked pasta recipe, pasta with sausage